Eric Chiles remembers the moment he knew he'd have a better future teaching golf than playing golf.

Chiles finished dead last in the 2006 Rochester Area Charities Showdown, a former event on the Nationwide Tour held at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, Minn.

Brandt Snedeker, now a PGA Tour regular who won the Heritage last month in a playoff over world No. 2 Luke Donald, reached the 18th green at Somerby -- playing at about 580 yards that year -- using a driver and an 8-iron.

Chiles needed driver, 3-wood and then a sand wedge to get there.

"That's just stupid," the 5-5, 140-pound Chiles said. "I was like, 'You can't compete with that.'"

But the Minnetonka High School graduate and director of instruction at Chaska Town Course can still hold his own.

He fired a 1-under-par 71 on Tuesday at Minneapolis Golf Club, good for co-medalist honors along with Luke Benoit in a U.S. Open local qualifier.

The two, along with Cory Blenkush (72) and Don Berry (73), advance to the section stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open, set for June 16-19 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

It's the first time Chiles, 39, has made the final 36-hole stage of qualifying for the big show.

"I made a couple of 10-footers for par, and that's something you really have to do here," he said. "It was super-boring golf."

Maybe. But it got interesting for Chiles as his round wrapped up.

Steady all day, the lefty ripped his tee shot on the 420-yard 17th into a fairway bunker on a failed hook attempt.

"Just trying for some extra yardage," said Chiles, who remarked he might be able to drive the ball 280 yards downwind. "I'm probably the shortest [hitter] out here. I needed something."

Instead he settled for a bogey after missing a right-to-left 12-footer for par.

Steamed at his hiccup, he rolled the dice on the final hole.

Left with 188 yards to the pin on the 454-yard, par-4 18th, Chiles opted for a 5-iron.

"If I hit it thin or even mediocre, it was going in the bunker," he said.

But the shot was superb and came to rest about 10 feet from the cup. He drained the birdie putt, and his double fist pump told the story.

"I was even and I thought 1 under might do it, so I knew I had to get after it," he said.

Benoit, the women's golf coach at St. Olaf College in Northfield, likewise had few highlights Tuesday but was pleased with his score. He got to 1 under with a birdie on the 431-yard, par-4 fifth hole, his 14th after starting on No. 10.

"The entire back nine I was just aiming for the green and hoping to sneak a putt in," he said. "Two putts was totally the goal."

Tuesday's qualifier was the second in the metro this year. Gophers associate men's golf coach John Carlson won the May 9 event at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids with a 3-under-par 69 after a nearly two-hour weather delay.

"My ball-striking was pretty much right on," said Carlson, who claimed last week's round was only his fifth since a trip to Florida with the Gophers in March over spring break. "I missed one green with an iron in my hand. It was just one of those days."

Former Class 2A boys' high school champion Brett Swedberg (70) also advanced out of Bunker Hills. Andy Paulson and Yarri Bryn claimed the last two spots. They emerged out of a four-man, even-par playoff.